A Guide to Korean Food Culture

*Warning: you will drool while reading this post!*

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On the second night in Seoul, Lilo and I headed to our first pojangmacha (small tented restaurants on wheels or street stalls) with our new Hearing friend from Couchsurfing.  “No spicy please,” Lilo gestured to ahjumma (“auntie/madam”). Lilo gestured “no” “hot” which are common gestures in many countries. Lilo doesn’t like spicy. In fact, she can’t even handle it.  With just a simple drop of spiciness, her tongue is on fire. The woman glared at her as if she was going to tell her spicy is important ingredient in Korean food culture.


On the other hand, I looove spicy food. Because of that, my sign language name is “spicy.” If you didn’t know, some have their own sign language name relating to their name, appearance, personality or likes. Hence the reason why my sign language name is “spicy.” Okay, back to drooling over about food! Lilo and I decided to eat mostly street food instead of going to the restaurants since we were on budget. Many street food cost $1 to $4, so that was a win! Many of them were delicious!



(above pictures) I think it is called dakgalbi. Correct me if I’m wrong. Lilo and I ate this in Gyeongju; however, this can be found other areas as well, such as Seoul. This dish was a delicious stir-frying diced chicken along with cabbage and tteokbokki (spicy rice cake). I recommend it!

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Cookie and Cream
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(left to right) chocolate covered vanilla ice cream and hazelnut ice cream

We recommend to get some ice cream goodies! You’ll find them in local convenience stores , such as Family Mart, GS25 and CU.

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iced coffee with Mint chocolate chip whip cream

There are cafes everywhere in Korea! I mean, everywhere. It seems that Koreans love coffee. Lilo is also a big fan of coffee, therefore Korea was being good to her, haha, other than spicy food though.

Insa-dong, Seoul.

A Hearing friend “Z” took us to this restaurant that requires spicy sauce for flavor purpose. Lilo nervously smiled but decided to give it a try without spiciness.  Z told ahjumma to not add spicy sauce; Z then translated what ahjumma said, “No spicy?! That’s the important part!” Z laughed.



Our solution? Put spicy sauce in a separated bowl. This hot pot consisted of tteok, chicken and spring onion along with  kimchi on the side.  Although this isn’t our top favorite food, it was still good.


When we spotted this poop-shaped bread, we assumed that it would consist of chocolate. “Wait,” I signed. “I think it’s red bean paste.” We scrunched our nose, because we personally do not like red beans. Although we did not bought one,  this kind man still happily posed for the camera! You’ll see this specifically in ssamziegil mall. It costs about $1-$2.

mandu, Korean dumpling

Lilo found a great hole in the wall dumpling restaurant. Lilo loves dumpling, so she excitedly bought these deep fried mandu for about $3! It consisted pork. With just three fried dumplings, Lilo was satisfied. It was located behind the stores, like this video.

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When we saw these, we were wondering what was it. We gestured to ahjumma, “how much is it?” She gestured “one” back. We weren’t sure if it had red bean paste but decided to give take a risk. When we took a bite, we saw each other’s eyes lit up. “this is soooo good!” Lilo said. Ahjumma, who was smiling brightly, saw our expressions and gestured “good? ” We nodded in excitement. After that experience, we couldn’t stop buying more hotteok during our trip in South Korea.  Hotteok can be found not only in Insadong but in many areas, such as Myeongdong and Hongdae.

Jipangyi Ice Cream

This was an interesting-looking ice cream called jipangyi that we cannot miss. The flavors were original tart and chocolate. If you love chocolate and want a lot of it, I suggest you to get only chocolate instead of two different flavors, because they didn’t add a lot of chocolate comparing to tart.

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We can’t remember what these are called, but please do tell us if you know . I believe these are cold noodles. SO GOOD. Thank you, JS, for introducing us to this amazing place!!

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This is the place where we got the cold noodles. I can’t remember exactly where it is located, but once I find out more about it, I’ll update you if you’re wondering! 😉 I highly recommend this place!

Hongdae, Seoul.

“What do you want to do on your birthday?” Lilo asked me. “Korean BBQ and Soju!”

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On my birthday, we went to the Korean BBQ nearby our hostel in Hongdae. We realized that the price they serve is not similar to America’s. In America, there is a range of $9.99 to $50 all you can eat (depending the location and what’s included), no matter how many plates of meat you order! In South Korea, however, they charge EACH plate. When we were sat down, we gestured, “How much per plate?” We read her lips as she said “10,000 won.” Shit, we were screwed because that was out of our budget. We didn’t want to leave, because ahjumma was ready to take orders. What you need to know about Lilo and I: we are too nice and soft-hearted. So, we decided to just do this for once. Regardless of the price, we had a good time with kbbq and soju! The soju was too strong, by the way! Do have a coke or something if you couldn’t handle hard liquor. I couldn’t tolerate taking anymore shots, so Lilo  drank the rest for me.  And of course, we got buzzed and had a good time.

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An absolute foodporn. They served the waffles with different syrups flavor: strawberry, chocolate, blueberry and we weren’t quite sure, we assumed it was a lime flavor. If you know, correct us please! Lilo became addict to waffles during our trip. Out of all waffles Lilo had tried, this one is the best! Do get one in Hongdae! You can choose one to four syrup flavors (: It costs about $3.

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A non-spicy chicken skewer.

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While Lilo has the chicken skewer, I had chicken with ddukbokki (spicy rice cake) and spring onion. SO GOOD. As you can see in the picture above, that’s my face of “ooooh!” because I could smell a strong scent of spiciness and how good it was.

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fish bread
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chocolate dipped grape and pineapple with ice cream in fish bread

“No red beans,” we softly spoke to ajusshi (“uncle/sir”) and gestured “no” as we crossed our arms like an X. It was quite alright. The taste wasn’t really unique as I expected but it still was a good thing that we tried it, right?

Myeong-dong, Seoul.

This is the shopping center that we frequently go to for street food and shopping. You’ll see a lot of pojangmacha at night!

Gyeranppang, Korean egg bread


Another food that Lilo highly recommends is Gyeranppang, Korean egg bread. It costs about $1!

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a corn dog covered with french fries

This caught my eyes, because I love french fries. It costs about $2, so why not! Even though it looks so good, it actually tasted okay. It was perhaps due to how it was left on the table for who knows how long. Next time, I’ll try a fresh one.

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The ultimate ice cream in Seoul! A foot-long delicious sweet that cooled us down on a hot humid day. No question about it, get it! And it costs only about $1!

Now, wipe your drool 😉 Try these out when you visit South Korea! Otherwise, if you have a local Korean restaurant nearby, try some if they have it (:

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